Mises Wire

A Library Without Books

A Library Without Books

The other day I ran across Jeff Tucker’s 2005 article The Myth of Cell Phone Addiction, and re-read it. It’s a really great piece. What I like about it is its optimism about technology; the spirit of embracing it rather than grumbling and griping about change, like some Luddite conservative stuck in the ways of immediate past. Many things in life can be abused, and technology is no exception. But we do not need, Marxist-like, to view modern technology as “alienating.”

We do not need to harumph at youngsters texting and denigrate this as frittering away time on unimportant matters. As Tucker notes, what drives critics “nuts is casual use, the whole middle-class casual culture of the cell phone, which seems to them wholly disgusting.” But communication is a good thing. It makes it harder for the state to control us. It’s liberating. And what’s wrong with making the most of one’s time? Walking between class, why not call your friends, make appointments, and so on? Tucker observes, “Meeting social obligations, making another person feel connected, letting someone know you care—these are all productive activities as understood by the individual speaking. Who are we to say what constitutes valuable or valueless conversations?”

The automobile–which provides mobile liberty to the individual–has also long been derided by the Planning Class. They want to force us into publicly-funded mass transit. Maybe it can provide free transportation to the polls on election day! (For more on this, see Rothbard’s The War on the Car.)

I thought of Jeff’s article when I came across “You can’t do that on an iPad,” an excellent blog post by John Long, Head of The Post Oak School, a world-class Montessori school in Houston. Long muses about the future of school libraries:

e-readers such as Kindle and now I-pad …. challenge the supremacy of the printed book. In fact, I believe they will finally put the printed book on the shelf. … My question now is whether we will ever again need a large, wonderful room to house books. How soon will we convert to a nice room with comfortable chairs and tables and a kindle for every kinder? Cushing Academy in Boston has already done that.

Long exemplifies the right attitude about new technological innovations: embracing it while not losing yourself in it, at the expense of experiencing and living in the rest of the world:

The ipad extends the medium into photos and videos and links…and also has the capacity for notation, highlighting, and generally making the book your own. You’ll be able to carry around a full library in your hand. No more spinal injuries from text-book-laden back packs.

There is a place for the ipad in the Montessori world unless we want to crawl into a cave.

But we must also crawl into caves … exploring the real world, counting bats, harvesting guano, searching for Cro Magnon paintings of bison and mastodons, confronting our demons, adventuring…whatever real people do in real caves…even though we’ll be able to read about it on the ipad and link to the video and even play the video game “Spelunker!” – all on our ipad.

As an aside: this is part of why I love the Montessori method (especially the AMI version), with its emphasis on peace, individualism, mutual respect, diversity, tolerance, internationalism, creativity, human potential, and reason. Is it any wonder Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin were Montessori kids?

The library is dead! Long live the library!

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